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August 11, 2010

Confessions of a Flight Attendant

by Bobby Laurie

I work crazy hours, get screamed at by unruly passengers, and have often fantasized about popping that escape slide and gliding to freedom. Will I actually snap one day?

The recent news about Steven Slater, the JetBlue flight attendant who cursed out his passengers, grabbed a couple beers, and rode the escape slide to freedom, had me thinking. Have I ever come close to my breaking point on the plane?

I remember working a flight from New York to Los Angeles when a man boarded wearing black sunglasses and a suit coat. He took off his coat, threw it onto my shoulder, and simply said, “Take care of it.” I thought, he can’t be serious. But serious he was. I smiled, folded it up nicely, and placed it in the overhead bin. The man slowly turned around, glaring, and said, “I told you to take care of it.” I smiled again, and responded, “I did.” We didn’t have closets on board that aircraft, and the moment was filled with tension. Later in the flight, this same passenger pushed his entire meal onto the floor of the plane because he “didn’t like the way it looked.”

Later in the flight, this same passenger pushed his entire meal onto the floor of the plane because he “didn’t like the way it looked.”

Still, I kept my cool. I talked it out with the other flight attendants on the flight, took their suggestions for dealing with the problem, and dealt with it. Don’t get me wrong, many times I have thought, How great would it be to pop the slide just to get out of here? But I would never do it.

In November of 2005, I filed an application with a regional airline to become a flight attendant. I did it because I was living in Los Angeles without a job and a friend of mine had described it as “awesome.” I had seen movies like View from the Top, which made the job look glamorous and exclusive, but I was skeptical that it was always that way.

I couldn’t have been more right.

Soon after you graduate flight attendant training, reality hits you. You find out that you’re only paid from the moment the aircraft door closes until the time that it opens again, which means transportation to and from a hotel is considered “rest” or “sleeping.” And you discover that, as a new hire, you are an “on-call reserve flight attendant,” meaning you can be called up and told to rush to a plane at any time. Even for more senior flight attendants, the schedules can be grueling—even as I write this, at midnight, my 4:45 a.m. wake-up call for my flight to San Francisco is looming.

Jessi Klein: Steven Slater Is Our Favorite Quitter

When I first started flying I was based in Washington D.C. and I worked on an aircraft that had two flight attendants. The Federal Aviation Administration believes that every 50 seats warrants one flight attendant (personally, I think that ratio needs to be smaller). Having the extra crewmember means having someone to talk to on long flights. It also means you’re not the only target for passenger ire in the event that something goes wrong. And trust me, things go wrong.

I remember landing in Key West, Florida from Fort Lauderdale. We were supposed to turn around and go right back to Fort Lauderdale, on to Orlando, then up to Washington D.C. to end our trip. That didn’t happen. Instead, when we landed in Key West we deplaned, cleaned the cabin (that’s right, sometimes we’re the cleaners, too) and started to re-board the aircraft. I was working in the front, and the captain called me into the flight deck. Apparently there was a problem with our brakes and it wasn’t safe for us to fly the aircraft until it was fixed. I got to break the news to the full flight. People began screaming at me instantly. One passenger yelled at me that he had a meeting to get to. I would have liked to snap back, “Would you like to get there alive?” But I just smiled and said sweetly, “I’m so sorry. Hopefully they can fix this fast.”

Why was I having to apologize for an airplane breaking and my pilots deciding not to fly it? Getting yelled at for being the bearer of bad news—or even non-news—is not uncommon. Passengers take the things we tell them personally. Let’s say you’re sitting in your seat sending a text message. The main cabin door has been closed, and the safety demonstration has been completed.

By now, you’ve heard at least three times that all electronic devices have to be turned off. So why isn’t yours? The flight attendant comes over and asks you to turn it off, in front of everyone. It’s situations like this, where the passenger feels singled out, that start most of the confrontations on board. But we’re just doing our job. Asking people to push bags under their seats, put bags in bins, fasten seatbelts, shut off electronics, bring seats fully upright—we’re not picking on you or singling you out. We’re working.

I admire Steven for doing what he did. On a daily basis, I experience the frustrations he faced, and I can understand why he may have finally just said, Enough. (Not to mention, he did the two most taboo things in the industry: popping the slide and stealing alcohol.) But when the day is over and I walk off the airplane I can undoubtedly say I’ve handled each situation as it came to the best of my ability, and usually, I look forward to what the next day brings because no two days are ever the same.

Bobby Laurie is a lead flight attendant for a low-cost airline based in California. He resides in Phoenix, Arizona and combines his passions for writing and travel by blogging about his travel experiences and flying the friendly (sometimes!) skies. Bobby writes a flight attendant blog called Up Up & A Gay and serves as co-host of The Crew Lounge podcast.

One-State, Two-State and the ATFP

(In the Photo, Hussein Ibish)

By Antoine Raffoul • Aug 9th, 2010

Until recently, we had never heard of the American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP). After some research on the subject of the One-State vs the Two-State solution, we discovered a long Study published by the ATFP in 2009 entitled “What’s Wrong With The One-State Agenda”. It made for interesting reading and shed some light on the people behind the ATFP which claim “to promote an end to the conflict in the Middle East through a negotiated agreement that provides for two states – Israel and Palestine – living side by side in peace and security”.

This document (the ATFP calls it a Study) was originally drafted by Dr Hussein Ibish (who is a Senior Fellow at the ATFP) at the time Israel was launching its criminal ‘Operation Cast Lead’ on Gaza in December 2008. That onslaught left 1400 Gazans dead and most of the Gaza Strip in ruins. One would have thought that ‘Operation Cast Lead’ would provide the ATFP with the clearest example yet of Zionism’s consistent policy of using force to attain total colonial stranglehold in all of historic Palestine. Events of the last 62 years would also provide a clear evidence of this policy.

A good reading of ATFP’s Study raised many questions some of which we put in writing to Dr Ibish, the author, via the ATFP website. An automated confirmation was received promising a reply which never came.

Overall, the Study attempts to demolish the whole basis on which the One-State solution is being promoted by its advocates including this writer.

It is surely high time that all politicians, historians, writers and academics who still believe in and support the idea of a Two-State solution to the Israel-Palestine tragedy to come forward and submit, once and for all, a clear and transparent statement outlining exactly what they really mean by the Two-State solution. They have had 62 years to advance this idea and they have failed.

This ATFP Study, whilst calling for an end to the Israeli occupation through negotiations, does not take into account the failed UN Resolutions, the endless summits and the numerous peace conferences which have dotted the Middle East political and diplomatic landscape since 1947. After 62 years, we are no closer to resolving this tragedy than we were when it started in 1948 with the Palestinian Nakba and the creation of the state of Israel.

Over the years, Israel, through its huge military machine and the ‘eternal’ support of the United States, has managed to reinforce its illegal occupation of Palestinian land not only since 1967, but since 1947 when an illegal Partition Plan was forced upon the Palestinian people.

The occupation continues unchecked, the illegal settlement construction is in full force and moves forward unabated, the destruction of Palestinian homes and farmland has become a daily occurance and the flagrant Israeli defiance of International Law is a routine phenomenon as the international community looks on.

Throughout all of historic Palestine, this picture of unrelenting colonisation by Israel is a very well documented one. It is probably the most documented conflict of modern times. The colonial picture has not changed but the Palestinian landscape has.

Israel’s occupation of all Palestine is pretty much complete and in line with the first Zionist declaration in 1897 which called for the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine within 50 years. The Zionists finally managed it in 1948 – missing their target date by only 1 year.
The force of this near total occupation can only be maintained via a huge military machine and through an outdated Apartheid political system which will surely fail.

The network of physical obstructions built throughout the Palestinian landscape offer us a clear system of control unseen since WWII: from exclusive roads for Jews only, to the massive number of illegal settlements, to the prison Wall wrapping around Palestinian villages along and out of the Green Line, to the checkpoints and watch towers reminiscent of a Nazi regime and finally, to a judicial and political racist system which favours the occupier and dehumanises the occupied.

This is a picture of a solid iron grip over a whole indigenous people. Not just in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, but also a grip over the 1.5 million Palestinians inside Israel, otherwise called ‘the others’.

It is through this window that a One-State vs a Two-State debate must take place. The writer advocated a One-State solution back in 1968 as the dust settled on the 1967 war between Israel, Egypt, Syria and Jordan. It was another wake-up call to focus on that Zionist declaration of 1897. Total occupation of historic Palestine was set in motion after the six-day war ended. If that was not enough to convince the world that Israel was determined to continue the course set for it 70 years earlier, then it must take a second look over the last 62 years since the Nakba of 1948.

It would be nothing short of ignorance to bury one’s head in the sand and cast a blind eye to all that Israel is doing in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. What is happening thier is nothing short of total occupation: physically, militarily, ethnically, and politically.

Which brings us to the ATFP Study: “What’s Wrong With The One-State Agenda”.
It is truly farcical, despite the above facts, that anyone should be calling for a Two-State Solution. It begs the question of what has been learnt by the American Task Force on Palestine (or any other Task Force or Think Tank for that matter), from the last 62 years which have seen millions of Palestinian refugees linger in their miserable camps and millions more suffocate under the longest and most cruel occupation in modern times.
In true fashion, the ATFP Study goes on the attack from the word go, against the authors of such publications as “The One State Solution” by Professor Virginia Tilley, “One Country” by the founder of the Electronic Intifada Ali Abunimah, and against the authors of the “One State Declaration” issued in London and Madrid in 2007 on the 60th anniversary of UN Resolution 181 (the Partition Plan).

The ATFP believes that because Israel ‘withdrew’ from Gaza (my italics) and from some small illegal outposts in the north of the West Bank, the logical conclusion would be that the Zionist leadership would not be adverse to the transfer of “sovereignty over a sufficient number of West Bank and East Jerusalem settlements to accommodate a viable and acceptable Palestinian state…”.

The key word here is, crucially, ‘accommodate’. Israel accommodates and a Palestinian state becomes magically viable. The ATFP author, Dr Ibish, must be blind to all the facts on the ground and fails to explain Israel’s PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s statements about the ‘natural growth’ of his illegal settlements. If anything, ‘natural growth’ is what I call an illegal and one-sided ‘accommodation’.

The Study goes on to tackle the Right of Return for the Palestinian refugees to their homeland, which is a main demand by those advocating a One-State solution. The Study submits that “some form of limited ‘return’ to the new Palestinian state would be an integral part of conflict agreement”. Another key statement here is: ‘some form of limited return’. In other words, no one should expect the ‘sovereign state of Israel’, to “open its borders to large numbers of Palestinian refugees to return to live in Israel under any conceivable circumstances”.

What are we to understand by ‘limited return’ and from which miserable camp will the refugees be ‘returning’. Does any one of the millions of Palestinian refugees have any say in this? The ATFP does not volunteer an answer.

One of the most sensitive issues this Study tackles is ethnic and national identities of the Palestinians and ‘Israeli Jews’. It states that “one of the greatest strengths of the Two-State solution is that it does not require Israelis and Palestinians to reconcile their national [and ethnic] narratives” when each people have a state of their own.

But the reality on the ground shows that only one narrative is allowed to develop to the detriment of the other narrative, and that is the Jewish/Zionist narrative. The erasure of memory, the uprooting of the foundations of the Palestinian society, and the ethnic cleansing of a whole nation and its people, are daily occurrences in the OPT today.

They remain solid proof of how one narrative claims sole right over the other under occupation. By promoting a Two-State solution (if at all possible now) on the basis that two peoples have had a bitter history of conflict, bloodshed and distrust, the author of the Study seems to forget the lesson history teaches us.

The most recent of these are Northern Ireland and South Africa, where truth and reconciliation managed to forge the basis of a miracle of unity.

Palestinians, throughout their history had no conflict with the indigenous Jewish and other ethnic groups in Palestine. Many wonderful examples of that harmony can be heard from testimonials of living descendants of villages like Lifta (where Abunima’s family lived) and others. The aim of a political solution must certainly not be, as suggested by the ATFP Study, the separation of ethnic groups because they had a history of conflict, but to unite them in a single democratic, multi cultural and free state. Israel, as it stands today, cannot claim that mantle.

In Part III of the Study, Dr Ibish argues that “the creation of a single Palestinian-Israeli state is not possible given the existing international and regional power equations”. He writes that “Israel is not going to agree to dismantle itself simply because it has lost a moral argument or an academic debate”. True. But Zionism, albeit with financial clout, never gave up arguing, debating, lobbying and arm-twisiting real power players, large and small, across the international arena ever since that onerous year of 1897.

The Palestinian struggle, though helped by academic debates, moral arguments and international boycotts, is fundamentally about self-determination, justice and freedom from occupation, not simply about scoring in academic debates. Dr Ibish argues that advocates of the One-State solution cannot simply ask an entire people [the Israelis] to simply abandon their national goals and strategies, even though these national goals and strategies have been aimed at the ethnic cleansing and the colonial conquest of an entire people.

A call for the abandonment of such goals and strategies must not only come from advocates of a One-State solution, but also from the international community at large.

The Study, in a desperate attempt to give credence to its Two-State logic, tries to have its cake and eat it. It admits that there is no official international support for the Israeli settlement activities and that international calls (including from the United States) for Israel to end its occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, make Israel’s legal position untenable.

But the Study uses this fact to forward a naive argument that the One-State agenda effectively “lets Israel off the hook” because the settlements, the occupation, the Wall and all resulting injustices become, in the one state, matters to be resolved “through the political and legal processes of a single state, rather than [being considered] abuses committed by an occupying power…bound by the terms of the Fourth Geneva Convention and other international instruments”.

This argument defies all logic as it falsely assumes that a crime by a state within its borders is less likely to be punished under International Law because such a crime would be considered as “one of civil rights within a given country…[and] the rights and interests of the international community in cases of domestic discrimination are not equivalent to those attached to territories considered by the UN Security Council to be under foreign military occupation”.

The Study thus considers that the rule of the jungle within a state is to be tolerated because it is inherently a civic matter within that state and not answerable under International Law.

The Study also assumes that the One-State advocated by us is the same Zionist Apartheid State called Israel.
Antoine Raffoul


Antoine Raffoul is a Palestinian architect living and practising in London. He was born in Nazareth and was expelled with his whole family by the Zionist underground when they entered Haifa in April 1948. The family settled in Tripoli Lebanon. In 1968, Antoine received his university degree in Architecture in the United States. After a working period of 3 years in New York City, he moved to London in 1971. He is the Founder and Co-ordinator of 1948: Lest.We.Forget, a non-partisan and mutli-professional group campaigning for truth about Palestine. He can be reached at

To Know is Not Enough

A new documentary highlights the story of Divestment at Hampshire College.

In the spring of 2009 news sources the world over reported that Hampshire College had become the first United States institution of higher learning to divest holdings from companies benefiting from the military occupation of Palestine. This victory in the international movement for BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions), was the product of a 3+ year campaign by the Hampshire college student group, Students for Justice in Palestine.

And though the board agreed to remove those assets involved in the occupation, the administration contested the political significance of the move and denied that the divestment was related to the occupation. Nevertheless, Hampshire’s divestment is considered a significant event in the still-developing history of the BDS movement.

One year after divestment, Hampshire Students for Justice in Palestine worked with a student filmmaker to tell the story of their divestment campaign – the result is a 30 min documentary featuring interviews with a sampling of SJP’s membership and using footage of past SJP events and actions. It highlights the student campaign and this campus movement for Justice in Palestine. The film attempts to show links between SJP’s work and the history of social responsibility at Hampshire College, as Hampshire was also the first US School to divest from Apartheid South Africa in 1979.

“To Know is not Enough” is used in reference to Hampshire College’s official motto (Latin: Non Satis Scire). The school proudly holds this message to affirm that, as an educational institution, it attempts to reach beyond ‘mere’ knowledge, encouraging students to question accepted understandings and to put their knowledge to use for the betterment of our world.

The story of SJP and divestment is only one among many student-led campaigns to hold Hampshire accountable to these founding values, and as part of that enduring legacy the film carries the school’s official slogan as it’s title: “To Know is Not Enough, How Hampshire Became the First to Divest”

The film is being released online, free of charge, and a blanket permission has been issued to hold public screenings of this documentary in any setting. Students are especially encouraged to use the film to educate and inspire, and to support many ongoing BDS campaigns happening throughout the country and world.


–Hampshire College Students for Justice in Palestine

August 9, 2010: Two-year Anniversary of Darwish’s Death

August 9 marks the second anniversary of poet Mahmoud Darwish‘s death.

So first, a moment of silence.


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